If you’ve ever pulled the slingshot back and sent a furious fowl down range, you know how addicting the game Angry Birds can be. You’re also not alone. By far the most downloaded app ever, it’s been #1 in the app store for over 300 days.
Earlier this week I heard Peter Vesterbacka, Mighty Eagle (Chief Marketing Officer) at Rovio talk about the attitude and culture of the company that created such a worldwide phenomenon. I collected a few eggs of wisdom:
1. Aim Higher. When Angry Birds debuted they set their sights on 100 million downloads…and everyone thought they were crazy. For perspective, Tetris—at the time, the most popular game ever—was the only game with 100 million downloads. Angry Birds passed that coveted mark in just 15 months. This year they’re on track to pass 1 billion downloads. What does Vesterbacka have to say about that? “It’s a good start.”
2. Narrow your focus. At Rovio, they care about two things and two things only: Their fans & Their brand. That’s it.
3. Keep Connected. Unlike traditional entertainment channels (e.g. movies, TV, music, etc.), Rovio keeps their fans close. “We know our fans and communicate with them everyday.” At Rovio, they have three goals, in this order: #1 Get Fans. #2 Keep Fans. #3 (and it’s a distant third) Try to monetize. So far the model is working incredibly well.
4. Don’t settle. Rovio has translated a video game brand into in T-shirts, toys, books, snacks, drinks, TV shows, movies, even activity parks. They launched a game from the international space station. They took over Times Square for their latest launch. Anything is possible. Knock down the walls you think are holding you in.
5. Stay Humble. Whether they’re launching a new game, entering the toy industry, or developing an animation studio, the folks at Rovio don’t shrink away from foreign fields—and they don’t storm in assuming they’re experts. Their attitude? “We don’t know everything, but we can learn.”
6. Be patient. Rovio developed 51 games over six years—mostly for other companies—before they completed and launched Angry Birds.
7. Enjoy Yourself. Vesterbacka recalls that during the 8 months it took to develop Angry Birds most of the developers were playing the game nonstop; they were having a great time doing their work. This was the first hint that they were onto something big.
8. Don’t coast. Angry Birds isn’t like other games that you download once and that’s it. Rovio updates its games every few weeks, adding more levels and new challenges. Four to five times a year they launch a new version of the game.
9. Respond creatively. While China is Rovio’s second largest market after the US, Angry Birds is also the most copied brand in the country. What’s Vesterbacka’s response? “It’s a good start…now we can start selling our licensed products.” Instead of sending in an army of lawyers (which they don’t have), Rovio is combating piracy by opening its own retail stores in China and providing customers with a better experience.
10. Think big. Rovio isn’t just about short-term successes or even astronomical download numbers. They see themselves as “building the future of entertainment.”
11. Have Purpose. Ultimately, Rovio’s endgame isn’t just about video games. They want to do something meaningful. They want to give the world education. They want to make learning fun, because we all learn better when we’re having fun!
Which of these principles speak to you the most? Which can you apply as a leader today?
“Sweetheart, I don’t think you’re putting it together right.”
My wife hadn’t been in the room for two minutes. I looked up from the headboard I was assembling for our daughter’s new bed and just stared at her.
It was late, I’d had a long day, and I simply didn’t have the patience to walk her through how these complicated man-things work, so I pointed to the instruction manual and asked her to look at it herself.
It took her about 5 seconds to show me the picture that proved she was right and I was wrong.
I felt the emotions flare up inside me. Embarrassment. Anger. Frustration. I let out a sigh and said, “I’ll get the other pieces.” It was a good 20 minutes before I could say to her, “You were right. I was wrong. Thanks for saying something. If you hadn’t come along when you did, I would have been so frustrated when I got the whole thing together and discovered it was wrong.”
Even as I spoke those words, the emotions were still simmering inside. It was hours before the sting truly faded. But as a leader, I’m obliged to respond when others need me to respond, not when I get around to feeling like it. Looking back, I’m disappointed it took me 20 minutes.
Throughout life, we gather a bunch of unwritten rules, subconsciously accepting them as true. One I see all the time is the idea that leaders must always have the right answer and never admit they are wrong—otherwise people might lose confidence in them. This is just baloney. Here are 5 reasons why:
1. Trust. Trust is the currency of leadership—the more someone trusts you, the more influence you have with them. Nothing builds trust faster than admitting your mistakes and proving you don’t have an inflated view of yourself. The people I trust and respect most in my life are the ones who are the most open and honest about their shortcomings and failures.
2. Growth. You will only grow to the extent that you can admit your mistakes. It’s a rate determining step. If you don’t fully acknowledge when you screw up, then you’re incapable of dealing with the root cause of your issues. If you’re not learning, you’re coasting. As I heard Don Miller say recently, “if you’re coasting, you’re going downhill.”
3. Innovation. If you can’t admit when you’re wrong, then odds are you’re afraid of failure. Maybe you’re afraid of damaging your own self-image. Maybe you’re afraid of diminishing your reputation. Whatever the reason, fear of failure inhibits your ability to take risks—and risks are required for innovation. You’ll also impede your team’s ability to innovate, because they will take their risk-taking cues from you.
4. Encouragement. If you can’t say, “I was wrong,” then you’ll never get the chance to say, “you were right.” If you want followers who feel good about themselves, believe in themselves, and are bringing their very best to the team, you must jump at every chance to encourage them. You can’t be on the lookout for their success if you’re preoccupied with your own.
5. Empowerment. If I fail to admit my mistakes and respond to correction for long enough (and it doesn’t take that long), the people around me are going to stop speaking up. If I maintain a persona of leadership perfection, I become unapproachable. They won’t tell me about the game-changing new idea they have, or the opportunity they see arising, or the threat looming in my blind spot.
Objectively speaking, most of us care more about doing a job right—and doing right by our people—than actually being right. So next time you screw up, do yourself and those around you a favor: admit it.
How do you think admitting your faults helps or hinders your leadership?
Sarah and I had a few friends over this past weekend and toward the end of the evening we started discussing our greatest passions. The conversation was frank and authentic, as it always is among people willing to be real, and it turns out we ran the gamut in our little group. Some had their greatest passion summed up in a single word while others were at a loss for what their true passion really was.
Finding your passion is not an easy thing. As an American male, trained as an engineer, who spent my 20′s wearing a military uniform, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to stuff my heart in a box over the years—to focus on more important things than “finding my passion.”
So how do you find your passion? There’s no one way to find your passion. All I can do is share my journey and hope that some part of it helps you on yours. Here goes.
Going through my journals, I’ve collected a list of questions from various sources across different times in my life, that have helped me nail down my passion. If you’re looking to find or verify your passion, I suggest you take a few minutes and jot down your answers to each one (multiple answers are encouraged for each question):
1. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
2. What could you do forever and never get tired of it?
3. When was the last time you lost all sense of time? What were you doing?
4. What do your friends think your biggest passion is? (ask via Facebook or Twitter)
5. Off the top of your head, what are your three favorite movies/stories of all time.
6. As objectively as possible, what are you really, really good at?
7. What things frustrate or upset you the most?
8. What do you daydream about?
Now take your combined list of answers and look for a common thread. Are there one or two themes that run through all or most of the things on your list? You’re looking for something broad enough to encompass all of the answers, yet specific enough that you can sink your teeth into it.
Once you think you’ve found one or two fundamental passions, it’s time to pick one and try it out. Try to apply that passion to other areas of your life—such as work. Look for new ways to express or channel that passion and see how it works out.
If you end up feeling less anxious and more fulfilled, less hurried and more purposeful, you’re probably on the right track.
What is your great passion in life?
For the past couple of years I’ve been working as a principal consultant for McKinney Rogers helping to design and deliver Walmart‘s groundbreaking Leadership Academy. Our team was so successful, Walmart decided this summer to bring the capability in-house and bought the contract out—along with our team.
I was then faced with a choice: continue to work for Walmart as an outside consultant or accept their offer for full-time employment. There were advantages and disadvantages to both options. As a consultant, I’d have the freedom to work with other clients, but wouldn’t have full access within the organization. As a Walmart associate I’d have the stability of working for the world’s largest company, but would lose the credibility enjoyed by being an outside advisor.
In the end, I chose to join Walmart for two main reasons:
1. Purpose. Having spent the better part of two years working with Walmart leaders at all levels, I’ve come to believe that this company is one of the greatest forces for good on the planet. Are they perfect? By no means. No company is. I challenge you, however, to find another organization that does so much good for so many people on its way to doing so well. Their purpose of helping people save money so they can have a better life isn’t just a phrase on a wall—it fuels the efforts of hundreds of thousands of associates every day.
2. Freedom. One of my biggest fears about joining the company was that I would become insular. I felt if I was to continue challenging leaders to be their very best, I would need to keep engaging in professional activities outside of the business—including writing and paid leadership consulting. These efforts would keep my teaching seasoned with current business experiences outside the context of Walmart. Long story short, Walmart agreed and we worked it out so I can pursue writing and consulting in addition to my Leadership Academy duties.
In the end, I got the best of both worlds—and so did Walmart. I’m thankful for the open-minded people I dealt with throughout the process as we developed a creative solution that served everyone involved.
Even though my day job has changed, my writing will continue here unabated. As always, thanks for all the support and encouragement, I look forward to the future as we continue to help one another lead on purpose.
None of the thumbs in our house are green.
Despite this well-known fact, We planted a dogwood tree in our front yard last fall. The whole family got involved—the kids helped dig the hole, drop the sapling in, replace the dirt, and water it down. We prayed for the leafless structure all winter, hoping it would survive. We rejoiced together at the green buds peeking out in spring. And we beamed with pride at the broad leaves that summer pushed out of the branches.
Then we went on vacation.
We came home, after a couple of weeks, to a nice brown lawn and a dogwood that was shriveling up before our eyes. The historic drought of 2012 had begun.
Only after googling dogwood trees did I learn they need a bit of shade and plenty of water to survive. What I had thought just a few weeks prior was a healthy tree with big green leaves was actually already dying on the inside.
The whole experience made me wonder: Where else in my life am I assuming everything is going well, business as usual, no worries? Is there a project that’s humming along that may not be going as well as I’m telling myself it is? Is there someone on my team who seems to be doing well, but may actually be near the end of their rope? Are my closest relationships as healthy as I think, or is one dying and I don’t even realize it?
Dare to ask the questions now—before it’s too late. Challenge the assumptions you’re basing your project decisions on. Ask your people—even your top performers—how they are doing. Ask those closest to you how you are doing and what you could be doing to serve them better.
We’ve been trying to nurse the dogwood back to health, but honestly, I don’t know if it’ll make it. It may be too little too late. Don’t let the same happen to you with a project, a person, or a relationship.
Who or what are you neglecting right now that may not be as healthy as you think it is?
Leading on Purpose
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- 11 Things You Could Learn from Angry Birds
- 5 Benefits of Admitting You’re Wrong
- 8 Questions to Help You Find Your Passion
- Why I Joined Walmart
- Who or What Are You Neglecting?
- 3 Ways Surfing Will Make You A Better Leader
- Are You Making Tough Choices?
- You Get What You Give
- Childlike vs. Childish
- What Are You Choosing Today?
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